One morning, while Mae Groleau was dutifully waiting for the parish catechism class to end so she could bring her children home, Father Edward Malloy approached her and said, “Mae, I see you bring your kids to CCD every week and wait here for them. You should be one of the teachers.”
Mae agreed and after several training sessions with the Victory Noll Sisters, she started teaching catechism at St. Joseph Parish in Perkins.
That was in 1959.
“When I started teaching, we used the St. Joseph Baltimore Catechism. I liked that one,” she said.
Over the years, especially following the Second Vatican Council, there were often changes in the lesson plans, and how the teaching of the faith was presented.
“It was difficult but I just had to keep learning and studying the teachers’ guides. You learn, and that’s what I did,” she said.
She has spent most of her catechist years working with second graders. “I really enjoy teaching the little ones,” she said.
Early in her career as a parish catechist the class sizes were often around 20 or more students, but over the years the numbers have dwindled.
“I’m helping prepare four children for their First Communion in May,” she said.
And that will be her last group of students. Health issues and time are beginning to catch up to Mae. Those young people made their First Holy Communion earlier this month.
At 94, the parish’s eldest member is pleased to have been able to serve as long as she has.
In addition to serving as catechist, Mae Groleau was a member of the first parish council at St. Joseph’s. She has been an active member of the Altar Society and was very active in efforts such as fish fries and parish picnics.
“It makes me smile to think about, but I am ready to step back now. I feel like I’ve done a lot,” she said.
Father Emmett Norden, a senior priest of the diocese who was raised in Perkins and served a stint as pastor at St. Joseph’s, remembers Mae teaching at the parish even before he was a priest.
“She was always such a lovely lady, so positive. I think she has had a real wholesome, good spiritual impact on the parish,” he said.
“I don’t know of anyone who has given 50 years of their life volunteering in such a beautiful and profound way.”
Printed with permission from The U.P. Catholic, newspaper of the Diocese of Marquette.